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How to train a puppy

Training a puppy will help them be safe and equip them with life skills, while also providing a bonding experience for you both. Patience and consistency are key when it comes to training your new dog.
How to train a puppy

So you’re welcoming a new puppy to the household. Brace yourself… Life will never be the same again! While training a puppy is immensely rewarding, we’re not going to lie - it’s also hard work.

But at the end of the journey, you’ll have a well-behaved, happy dog. Plus you’ll have formed an unbreakable bond between human and best furry friend. Sounds good? Let’s get stuck in.

Before we continue… Have you considered protecting your new pup with insurance cover? Look into peace-of-mind dog insurance today.

What are the benefits of training my puppy?

Basic obedience training is essential to ensure your dog remains safe and under control in various situations. For example, getting them to sit or wait can stop them from getting into scrapes. Or getting them to come back when called can stop them from becoming lost, or poking around into situations they shouldn’t.

Plus dogs love to learn. As such, training can be mentally stimulating for them, preventing them from getting bored.

How do I train my puppy?

Training your dog should be reward based. Rewards should be something your dog loves - like treats, praise or toys. Giving them a reward in response to certain behaviours will make them more likely to do it again.

In other words, you’re aiming for positive reinforcement. This means that good behaviours will be associated with positive outcomes.

Whatever happens, do not punish your dog. This can be hard, because there are going to be frustrating times ahead. But it’s vital you avoid punishing them, because this can bring about fear and anxiety. Not only is this undesirable for your dog, but it can bring about negative consequences for you down the line.

Top tips for training your puppy

  • Have short, frequent sessions. Be regular with your training sessions. But don’t carry on for ages, or you risk overwhelming your dog. Sessions should ideally be about 5 to 10 minutes long.
  • Be consistent. A consistent approach is vital, else you risk confusing your pup. Set clear rules and routines. Plus you need to make sure all family members are on the same page regarding training methods.
  • Use commands consistently. Likewise, you want to avoid confusion when giving commands. Use clear and consistent verbal cues for commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’ (or ‘wait’), ‘come’ and ‘down’. You can also pair each command with a hand signal to reinforce understanding.
  • Be patient. At all times you need patience and understanding. Puppies are still learning, and may not grasp commands immediately. Stay calm - they’ll get it in their own time.
  •  Avoid distractions. When you start a session teaching new tricks, do it somewhere quiet with minimum distractions. This means the puppy can fully concentrate on the task at hand.
  • End sessions on a positive note. Finish with something your dog knows, followed by their favourite reward.
  • Have fun! You’re bonding… So enjoy it :)

Now we’ll take a look at specific types of training

How to toilet train a puppy

You probably want to get on this one first! On the plus side, puppies mostly come pre-programmed with toilet training skills.

How to toilet train your puppy

How to teach a puppy to sit and stay

Teaching your dog to sit or stay can help keep them safe when you’re out and about. For example, these basic skills are useful if you need to cross the road, or if your dog’s meeting new people.

How to crate train a puppy

Crate training is all about creating a safe, familiar space for your puppy. It can help with toilet training, and is really useful if you’re taking your pup to unfamiliar environments - such as if you’re going on holiday.

When can puppies go outside?

Pups love snuffling about in the great outdoors. Ideally, it’s best to start them in the garden before building up to your first walk. But when is it safe to do so?

How to socialise your dog

Your puppy will go through a socialisation period, which is roughly 4 to 12 weeks. During this time, it’s a good idea to expose your puppy to a variety of people, animals, sounds and environments. This helps them become confident and well-adjusted, and should also prevent fear and anxiety in later life.

When to start puppy classes

Puppies are a lot of effort. It’s hard to entirely train them, even if you don’t lead a busy life. But especially if you’re short on time, puppy training classes can be a godsend.

Teenage puppy training

At six months plus, you might start to notice your dog misbehaving, and training going to pieces. This is a classic sign of adolescence - you’ve got a teenager on your hands!

Now we’ll look at how to address common challenges

How to stop a puppy from biting

Although a certain amount of play-biting is expected, you don’t want your puppy to get into a biting habit. This is especially the case if you have children, or your puppy will be meeting new people.

How to help with separation anxiety

Dogs often display unwanted behaviours when they’re suffering with separation anxiety - in other words, not wanting to be left alone. For this reason, it’s best to gradually get your puppy used to being alone.

You can do this by leaving them alone for short periods, and increasing the duration over time. You can also provide comfort items like a blanket or toy. Plus you should avoid making a big fuss when leaving or returning.

How to stop your dog from barking

Barking is a natural means of communication in dogs, but it can become excessive. If this is the case, you need to address the underlying cause of the barking - such as boredom, fear or attention-seeking behaviour.

What to do if you’re having problems with your dog

As mentioned, training your puppy isn’t easy. If training isn’t going according to plan, it may be worth hiring a dog training instructor. They can help provide the tools necessary to get through to your pup, and give valuable insights you may not have thought of.

But if your puppy’s behaviour gets to a problem level, you may feel like you need to seek extra help. At this stage, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a qualified behaviourist. They can help with behavioural issues like:

  • Aggression
  • Destructiveness
  • Excessive barking
  • Phobias

About the Author

Owe Carter is a writer specialising in insurance and pets. After a 10-year shift as lead copywriter at Confused.com, he's written for numerous consumer, motor and personal-finance businesses - including Go.Compare, Admiral, AA Driving School, Ageas, Principality, MoneyWeek and Look After My Bills. He has two cats, Niblet and Slinky, and a cavalier named Momo.

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